Americana | A Continuous Lean. - Page 3

Summering at RRL.

Jun 29th, 2013 | Categories: Americana | by Michael Williams

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An oldie, but a goodie. Every summer, Ralph Lauren sets up a fully kitted-out tepee on his RRL ranch in Ridgeway, Colorado. It’s not something you see everyday, and I don’t think many folks out west would ever attempt anything like this.

The tepee is done up top to bottom in RL style, complete with leather club chairs, rugs and even an antique chandelier. That Selvedge Yard fella has blogged it way back in 2009 (at the dawn of the internet) and Oprah even paid the tepee a visit when she went interview Ralph at his 17,000 acre RRL ranch, but it’s still worth looking at yet again. Colorado in the summer is a pretty magical place in its own right, but I couldn’t imagine a more interesting place to spend a weekend. Wonder if Ralph is receiving guests? My guess is no…


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At Work With Aaron Draplin.

Jun 26th, 2013 | Categories: American Badass, Americana, At Work, OR | by Michael Williams



This meeting was a long time coming. I was in Portland, Oregon a few months back, but I didn’t have a chance to go and meet Aaron Draplin. I’m back this week and I couldn’t make the same mistake twice.

I had a lot of work to do (as I’m sure he did too), but I manage to sneak over to see Draplin today and finally get to meet the man I have admired for so long. Interestingly enough the designer and Field Notes creator is exactly the same in person as I imagined him to be. Friendly, animated, generous, smart, funny and full of life. Draplin is EXACTLY the type of person that ACL was designed to highlight. If you aren’t up to speed on him,. here’s a bit more about him from the ACL archives. I could basically shut this place down after this post, but I won’t.

Georgia on my Mind.

May 4th, 2013 | Categories: Americana, History | by Michael Williams


The Boston Public Library has a massive and impressive digital photo archive, which is open for all to enjoy via Flickr. The collection has yielded other interesting ACL posts in the past, and an image search recently led to this collection of old Georgia post cards from roughly 1930-1945.

I’ve spent the past few days in Southeast Georgia (Jekyll, St. Simons & Sea Island) and it got me looking around for old pictures and along came these nearly 600 great old postcards from all over the state of Georgia. Nice stuff here from the BPL as usual.




Yellowstone and the Adventures of the American West.

Apr 13th, 2013 | Categories: Americana, History, Photography | by Michael Williams


The U.S. Geological Survey has a nice collection of photos from the national parks of the American West, including a bunch of images from the various surveys of Yellowstone National Park from late 1800s that eventually led to the land being protected forever by the government. These early black and white photographs capture the beautiful natural landscape of an area that has gone on to become one of the most celebrated and a widely visited places in America.



A Better Way to Screw.

Apr 5th, 2013 | Categories: Americana, History | by Michael Williams

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I came across an interesting article recently about the Phillips screw and its inventor Henry F. Phillips. It was surprising to learn that in a moment of innovation in the late 1930s, Cadillac was the first company to use the Phillips screw. As someone who has the collectively random interests of history, WWII and and U.S. manufacturing, this story is a gold mine.

My friend Mark was telling me the other day that his four-year old son is at the stage in his development that he is constantly asking questions about everything. Apparently, the most common query is — why? In a way, I think I never really grew out of that phase (and I’m sure many of you are the same way). I look at an everyday object and wonder what the story is behind it. What went into it becoming what it is? Because everything has a story, even something as simple as a Phillips screwdriver.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The screw was invented in the early 30’s by Henry F. Phillips, a Portland, Oregon businessman. He knew that car makers needed a screw that could be driven with more torque and that would hold tighter than slotted screws. Car makers also needed a screw that would center quickly and easily, and could be used efficiently on an assembly line. The Phillips screw was designed so that it could be driven by an automated screw driver with increasing force until the tip of the driver popped out without ruining the screw head. So what many consider a design flaw is actually a feature (at least if you’re a car manufacturer).

The Phillips screw first gained acceptance with Cadillac in the late 30’s. Although there is a Phillips Screw Co. today, the company never actually made Phillips screws or drivers. They were produced under license by other companies. Unlicensed knockoffs proliferated, so that in 1949, Mr. Phillips was stripped of his patent.

The Most Famous Ship that Didn’t Sink.

Mar 29th, 2013 | Categories: Americana, History, Kate Dulin | by Kate Dulin


Last month, CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on the history and dire current state of the SS United States, “the most famous ship that didn’t sink”. Even with that motto, the SS United States is relatively unknown by today largely because the popularity of jet travel made ocean liners unnecessary shortly after it first set sail. It remains obscure despite the fact that the S.S. United States still holds the record for the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic. Obsolete almost from the minute the champagne bottle broke across her bow, the once great ship is now in danger of disappearing altogether.

First launched in 1952 after only two years of construction, the SS United States’s fanatical architect William Francis Gibbs had it built secretly, out of public view, on a dry dock in Newport News to strict U.S. Naval standards and his own obsessive guidelines. The glamorous ship had the capacity to hold 3,016 passengers, though it could be converted to carry 15,000 troops during wartime if the need arose. It was longer than the Titanic by 100 feet and faster by fifteen miles per hour, and completely fireproof on the interior (aside from a special fireproof mahogany used on the SS United States’s specially made Steinway pianos, no wood was used on the ship at all). Her famous passengers included John Wayne, Grace Kelly, Salvador Dalí, and John F. Kennedy. Seemingly every detail of the ship was meticulously planned and executed during construction to ensure that the SS United States would secure its place in history as the greatest passenger vessel of all time.


The Great American Thermos Hoard.

Mar 20th, 2013 | Categories: Americana, Cleveland | by Michael Williams


There’s a man in my hometown of Cleveland named Kyle Bitters who has been amassing a considerable collection of vintage thermoses. I recently learned about this collection of American vacuum bottles from another Clevelander (the talented photographer Eric Kvatek) who posted photos of all of these old thermoses on his blog. The significance of all of these thermoses was not lost on me, once I saw this place I quickly emailed Eric to find out more. The thermos guy, Kyle, who’s a retired air traffic controller, has apparently been collecting these since 1990 and has focused on metal bodied thermoses that don’t have characters or cartoons on them. His collection is greater than any I have ever seen. I’m sure someone in Japan would come and buy it from him for a considerable sum. Though, I’d have half a mind to make Kyle an offer myself.

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